Inquest into death of Thomas Morris starts today

Inquest to open into death of the fourth of 7 men to take their own lives in HMP Woodhill in 2016.

Before HM Senior Coroner Tom Osborne. Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court, sitting at Christ the Cornerstone, 300 Saxon Gate, Milton Keynes MK9 2ES. Opens 26 June 2017 – expected to last 8 days.

An inquest hearing will start on Monday, exactly a year after 31 year old Thomas Morris was found hanged in his cell in HMP Woodhill.

Thomas Morris had a complex history of substance misuse & mental health issues, including depression. He had been to HMP Woodhill several times over the preceding years for short periods before his remand on 28 January 2016 for offences of theft & burglary. He was placed on unit 2A, which houses specialist support for those detoxing from drugs and alcohol. Thomas was working with the substance misuse team as he wanted to be drug free.

The inquest will hear that Thomas sought support from the mental health team. He was assessed on 16 March, following which the team decided he did not need their continued input.

Between February & May Thomas was accused of low level rule breaking, including stealing two packets of biscuits from the prison kitchen & was put on the basic regime. He also admitted to using SPICE in April for which he was disciplined.

The inquest will hear that in April Thomas’s father contacted the prison because he was concerned about his son. He received a letter in reply assuring him that Thomas was being supported.

On 19 April Thomas told his substance misuse keyworker that he felt suicidal. Staff began monitoring him under suicide prevention procedures, but this was stopped the next day.

On 15 May Thomas tried to hang himself in his cell. Staff began monitoring procedures again. Thomas was noted to be displaying high levels of paranoia & said that he could feel things crawling under his skin. He was seen by Dr. Van Horn, a psychiatrist, who did not diagnose a serious mental illness. Monitoring stopped on 15 June.

The inquest will hear that Thomas’s father contacted the prison raising concerns again on 27 May as he had learnt that his son had attempted suicide. He received a reply from the prison saying that they could not disclose information to him.

On 19 June Thomas was moved away from HU2A after he threw his television over the unit landing. Suicide and self-harm monitoring was started again on 21 June after a prison chaplain raised concerns.

Thomas was found by an officer at about 12.20am on 26 June hanged with a sheet tied to the cell window bars. Despite resuscitation attempts he could not be revived.

The inquest will here that after Thomas’s death prisoners on wing 2A all signed a petition which was given to the Governor raising concerns about the care Thomas had received.

Key Issues

Some of the key issues the inquest must address are:

  • Adherence to suicide and self-harm prevention procedures, including risk assessment and observation levels
  • The adequacy of support by the mental health team
  • Information sharing between prison officers, the substance misuse team and mental health team
  • The decision to move Thomas off wing 2A

Most of these issues have arisen in relation to previous deaths at HMP Woodhill.

 

INQUEST has been working with the family of Thomas Morris since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Jo Eggleton of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors and Nick Armstrong of Matrix Chambers.